Run On: Episode 11
Our leads are solid, exploring their new relationship with all the joy and freedom of two young semi-employed folks. Things aren’t going so smoothly for the chaebol princess and her erstwhile artist, though, as he tries to keep his distance, and she tries to figure out why getting the space she craved is so disappointing.
EPISODE 11 RECAP
Mi-joo waits for Sun-kyum to call. She gets paid for her recent interpreting gig, so she turns down her friend’s offer of a tutoring job, but her loan repayment automatically deducts from her bank account, so she calls her friend back to accept. Too real.
Sun-kyum, having promised Woo-shik he’ll get him back on his feet (literally and figuratively), takes him to eat at his grandma’s friend’s restaurant.
Sun-kyum doesn’t pressure Woo-shik, but says they’ll come up with a rehab plan that he can fit around his cleaning schedule, building up again from the basics. He tells Woo-shik not to train without him.
Woo-shik admits he didn’t want to work with Sun-kyum because he seems strict. Sun-kyum tells him to stop being so formal and call him “Hyung.” Woo-shik is reluctant, but Sun-kyum says he won’t be so strict, and Woo-shik immediately caves. Sun-kyum: “I lied.”
Ye-joon notices that Young-hwa is down and takes him out for drinks. He asks if the problem is the commission or his assignment, but deduces from Young-hwa’s expression that it’s both. They reflect that they know each other too well, after twenty years.
They’re both applying for a competitive two-month study abroad program, and Young-hwa asks Ye-joon to pray for him—just add another name to his list. Ye-joon complains grumpily that Young-hwa doesn’t actually know him at all.
Sun-kyum puts together a rehab program for Woo-shik, feeling sad as he thinks about how difficult it is for him to run now. Young-hwa comes in, drunk and handsy, and Sun-kyum escapes to the rooftop to answer Mi-joo’s call.
She’s right outside the building, and they wave to each other. He runs down to her, and Mi-joo says to herself that his smiles will be the death of her. Me too, girl.
As they walk, he asks why she came, and she rambles about it being on her way, but he cuts in that she must have missed him. She retorts that he shouldn’t get ahead of himself. “I missed you,” he says. She says he should have called, but he says he didn’t want to disturb her. He says he’s working on something that he needs her help with, but he’s not ready to show her yet.
He tells her he writes in his journal every night, surprising her—he’s gotten hooked. Mi-joo says she never really kept one, except as homework. She never had anything important to say about her life, and she worried it might turn into a confession rather than a journal entry: “I was a bad kid.”
Mi-joo stops walking and apologizes for earlier, when she told him not to get ahead of himself. Instead of being straightforward, she keeps being sarcastic with him, and she’s not proud of it. He looks at her with heart eyes, and offers his hand to hold. They walk into the night, saying sweet things to each other. Sigh.
Young-hwa asks Sun-kyum to bring him a flash drive he forgot. On campus, Sun-kyum runs into Tae-woong, who recognizes him immediately. Sun-kyum asks why he’s getting in his way, and Tae-woong says he hates his existence, but it’s not personal—he feels that way about all athletes.
Before Sun-kyum can escape, they run into Tae-woong’s nemesis, an underground rapper who’s also a student here. A crowd gathers, and Tae-woong pleads for Sun-kyum to help. Sun-kyum grabs his arm and they dash away. Young-hwa sees them speed past and joins the crowd following them.
They all duck into a stairwell. Young-hwa starts getting on Tae-woong’s case about unfollowing him on Instagram, but the idol’s having trouble breathing, and passes out. They take him to the hospital.
When Tae-woong wakes, his first question to Young-hwa is why Dan-ah came to see him, ignoring the revelations that Sun-kyum paid his hospital bill and Young-hwa carried him there on his back. Young-hwa calls him out for being so informal in his speech, but Tae-woong says he learned Korean late and no one corrected him. His grumpy attitude flips completely when Young-hwa asks for an autograph for his friend, though.
Young-hwa runs into Mi-joo on his way home, and helps her carry her groceries. She comments that his way of speaking is similar to Sun-kyum’s—perhaps that’s why they’re friends. Mi-joo invites Young-hwa in for coffee, and remembering how he’d seen Sun-kyum’s car parked here, deduces that Sun-kyum moved in with Young-hwa because he lives near Mi-joo.
Young-hwa ends up confiding in Mi-joo about Dan-ah. He says that painting has always been his one passion, which he fell into even more deeply once he got to university. He hasn’t had a lot of experience with people. He compares his relationship with Dan-ah to art that can only be seen from an in-between distance—which he hated, so he ruined it. He admits it’s immature.
Mi-joo says Dan-ah didn’t behave too well, either. He wonders if he should act like more of a professional, but Mi-joo says it’s more adult to admit where you went wrong.
Mae-yi asks Mi-joo to translate a horror movie that her distribution company is re-importing to Korea. Mae-yi did the initial translations ten years ago, but looking at them now makes her cringe. Mi-joo is reluctant to mix work with friendship, and asks for some time to think.
Sun-kyum asks Mi-joo to join him for a half-marathon, though she can run the 10K course instead. He’s applied as an instructor, since he’s temporarily filling in for Coach Bang. She plans to wear the shoes he gave her, and he says he wonders how they’ll wear out—a shoe tells so much about a person’s profession, their emotions and energy.
She gives him a book as a present in exchange. It’s about learning to love yourself, a callback to his earlier confession that he never learned how. Aw. He promises he’ll read it.
Young-hwa waits at Dan-ah’s agency. She says she can spare him ten minutes. She says she made a mistake, and he asks if she’s apologizing. But no; he was thinking of her as a regular person again. “Don’t,” she says. “Have any thoughts, expectations, sentiments or disappointments about me.” He replies that he won’t.
Her mistake was not giving him the contract she offers now, one she’s had drawn up for “any vending machine,” and he scoffs that he must’ve had some hope left after all. She asks if he likes her. He admits he did, but that’s over—he ended it. He signs a contract to finish in three weeks, accepting all her terms, and agrees that it’s her painting, not his.
Sun-kyum takes Mi-joo with him to coach the track and field team, and they pick up Woo-shik on the way. The kids are excited to see both Sun-kyum and Woo-shik. Mr. Jung calls to ask Mi-joo for a meeting with Dan-ah, which is how she finds out that Dan-ah is sponsoring the marathon.
Mi-joo and Woo-shik watch Sun-kyum train the kids, and Woo-shik apologizes for not even opening the exam prep book she bought him. She tells him to sell it to someone who needs it. She asks if he needs another goal to motivate him, now that Sun-kyum, who Woo-shik had named as his inspiration, has retired.
He says Sun-kyum will still motivate him, along with Grandma. Mi-joo reflects that it’s a heavy responsibility to be someone’s role model—like Woo-shik is for these kids. He smiles.
Sun-kyum takes Woo-shik for a run after practice, getting Mi-joo to film it so that he can analyze Woo-shik’s movements.
Dan-ah’s father tells her to let “Oppa” Myung-min host her charity marathon, and she’s rightfully outraged. He says it’s for the sake of the company’s image and won’t take no for an answer.
Mi-joo arrives early for her meeting with Dan-ah, carrying food for Mr. Jung and worried over the scratches on his hand—not caused by Dan-ah, as Mi-joo hilariously wondered, but his completely adorable cat. They bond over kitty pictures, and smiling Mr. Jung is too cute.
When Dan-ah arrives, Mi-joo calls her out for abusing her power by making her come here to register in person for the run. Dan-ah reflects that she must have been punished by having the same done to her earlier. Dan-ah keeps asking about Mi-joo’s relationship to Sun-kyum, but Mi-joo doesn’t bite.
She tells Dan-ah that she’s running because she was always the recipient of charitable events like this. Now, for the first time, she can contribute. Dan-ah asks about Mi-joo’s upbringing—she’s had a rough childhood, but she’s not mean, and she’s gutsy despite her lack of connections.
“I was very clear about what I needed. If I couldn’t have it, I wasn’t greedy for it. If I still wanted, I satisfied myself with something similar, even if it was fake,” replies Mi-joo. Dan-ah says that everything she had was taken away. Its all relative—in her world, she’s the weak one, so she keeps her walls high out of self-preservation.
Mi-joo asks Dan-ah to stop sharing her innermost feelings with her; they’re not that close. Dan-ah claims she never has, and Mi-joo sighs at this lack of self-awareness. She tells Dan-ah that they should both relax a little, for their own sakes.
Mi-joo brings Sun-kyum to Mae-yi’s office theater after hours for a movie date. After they finish it, Mi-joo says she’s been asked to translate this one—the original subtitles are ten years old, and words are always dying out and being created. Sun-kyum notes that the movie said something similar. Mi-joo responds that other things are disappearing too; many say AI will soon make translators obsolete.
She’s resigned to the idea of machines replacing us, but Sun-kyum says there are things that only humans can do. She thinks athletics is one, but Sun-kyum tells her that athletic events disappear for a different reason: no one is interested.
When he quit running, he’d though it was gone from his life, but he’s not only attached to what he used to run in pursuit of; he’s excited about the things he still wants to run after.
She says that’s how she feels about the movie they just watched. “Don’t disappear,” she tells him. “Stay with me.” He promises to always be with her. He asks if she’ll translate the movie that reminds her of him. They play adorably with each other for a while. (I definitely rewatched that scene a few times.)
Dan-ah moons over
Young-hwa Young-hwa’s paintings, sullenly going along with the handover of her charity event to her brother.
Mr. Jung relays that Young-hwa is ready for her feedback on the painting, and Dan-ah comments that it feels weird that he’s so obedient. She makes Mr. Jung smile for her. This man needs a raise, or a vacation.
Dan-ah summons Young-hwa to her office, where she has a blank canvas set up, and tells him to paint. He’s flabbergasted, but he starts.
She watches intently for a while, then tells him to smile for her. He replies that she’d told him before to stop smiling at her. Now, if she wants to see him smile, she should give him a reason.
She says this must be the real him, the dark and rude self she saw in his paintings, but he tells her to give up if she can’t make him smile. She smiles big at him, stunned and annoyed when it doesn’t work. Oh, Dan-ah.
Finally, she confesses, “My desire for your painting and my desire to see you contradict each other. Even if Monet or Picasso were alive, I’d have chosen you, because I liked…your painting. Not you.”
Belying her words, she asks if it’s really over, and asks him not to end it. He asks frustratedly why she’s being so childish. Has he grown on her?
She kisses him.
“I guess you have,” she says. “I guess behind your painting, it was you.”
Ahhhh when was the last time a secondary couple was as good as the main couple?! Writer Park Shi-hyun is a former assistant to Kim Eun-suk; this is her first drama as the head writer. While I much prefer Park’s style to Kim’s, I can certainly see some of that DNA in Run On’s deliciously crafted dialogue and two strong, separate lovelines rather than one love polygon. That was a great final scene, building on the tension and yearning and anger and sadness that’s been building since their big confrontation. All this time, it’s been Young-hwa wearing his heart on his sleeve and openly showing his affection. Dan-ah only recognized how much she was enjoying his company once it became unavailable to her. Mi-joo keeps protesting that she doesn’t want to be Dan-ah’s friend, but she functionally already is, and she was right on with her observation about Dan-ah’s inability to read her own emotions.
Dan-ah kept referring to Young-hwa’s earlier attempts to reach her as bothersome. It was fun to watch her slowly realize that what she called a nuisance, an interruption of her precious time, was actually giving all of that time meaning. We saw her eventual “aha” moment happen in real time at the end of the episode, as she immediately negated her declaration that she desired Young-hwa’s painting, not him, with a plea for him not to stop liking her. She suddenly understood that her love for Young-hwa’s art is completely wrapped up in her fascination with him, a truth I think he picked up on from the beginning, which is probably why he fell for her so quickly. As entertaining as Prickly Dan-ah can be, I’m so excited to see her letting down some of her walls with people who deserve it. I can tell that she and Mi-joo, too, are going to become great friends despite themselves.
Speaking of which, that’s one of the things that gives me continuous enjoyment about this show: there’s this entire cast of interesting characters, and we keep getting new and fascinating combinations of them in every episode. Unlike many a drama, which keeps recycling interactions between combinations of the same main four people, and keeps the ensemble cast tied to particular settings, Run On feels so much more organic. We get realistic details most dramas would omit, which—no accident I’m sure—often makes it feel more like film than TV. Characters cross in and out of each others’ lives in entertaining and informative ways. Case in point: Mr. Jung and Mi-joo looking at cat pictures and Dan-ah interrupting them. Whenever I think the show has exhausted its possibilities, it gives me something new and wonderful, like the hilarious intersection of Tae-woong, Young-hwa and Sun-kyum. Or every scene of Sun-kyum encouraging and caring for Woo-shik, who loves him just as fiercely and constantly teases him for being old.
Another thread through this episode was the idea of abuse of power, or gapjil. There’s Dan-ah, subject to her father’s whims; Dan-ah ordering Mr. Jung and Mi-joo around; Sun-kyum’s dad unilaterally starting a regional team for Sun-kyum’s students; Dan-ah ordering Young-hwa to her office to paint. (And those scenes where Dan-ah orders those “below” her to smile have to be commentary about when male bosses do it to women, right? I loved that.) The idea of power, who wields it, and the way it operates not just in professional but personal relationships is so central to this show, and I love the various ways characters wrestle with it. This drama really goes there in a way a lot of others don’t—it gets into the tough stuff, and I appreciate that so much.
But! A large part of this episode was just Mi-joo and Sun-kyum being adorable, and it’s exactly the oasis my stressed-out life needs right now. How are these two so sweet without ever once making me feel as though I’m drowning in sugar? I’m not one for the ultra-sweet romances, so I often find myself cooling down right when a couple heats up, but I find these two unbearably cute in every scene. Them petting each other’s hair and saying, “You’re so good” to each other made me grin like a fool. I can’t get enough of their little smiles of delight when they’re together, and the way they tease each other, like Sun-kyum playing keep-away with the book, just kills me dead. With me basically having the same real-life job as Mi-joo right now, I think I’m identifying with her to an unhealthy degree. Will Sun-kyum be the K-drama lead who finally ruins me for real men? Ah, who cares. On to the next episode!
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